This won’t mean anything to carnivores, and vegetarians shouldn’t read it. So read on!
I’m not a very good vegetarian. I don’t like meat, and I’m also an eco-activist of sorts – both good enough reasons to not eat meat – or only eat a little. Like most people I’m also pretty inconsistent. But I like ham and sausages, even black pudding which my sister says is ‘hard core carnivore’, although it’s mostly oatmeal. I only really eat these when I’m out – I don’t buy these things to eat at home. And I didn’t eat any of this stuff until a few years ago. My diet is mostly vegetarian with the odd bit of fish.
So we went to Barcelona by train, with an overnight stop in Paris. (France is a vegetarian nightmare anyway – with very overrated food- so it helps if you eat fish and a bit of pig). My birthday evening, opposite the Gare de Lyon, before catching the intercité de nuit sleeper to Perpignan (from nearby Gare de Austerlitz), we popped into a restaurant and asked for the menu de jour.
The main courses were either penne pasta with Salmon (not my favourite fish at all) or sausages. Now these sausages went under a French name I forget but with English translation “chitterlings sausages”. I had no idea what chitterlings are but thinking Cumberland – type sausage I ordered it. The waiter did a “trés bien” with what I thought a respectful air. The starter (crudités – salad to you and me) was fine. Then the main course arrived. A big sausage on plate for me, and a bowl of chips – not very balanced I thought – whether you get veg with your meal is totally random here. It looked a bit like a tasty Cumberland sausage, if a bit baggy and misshapen.
I cut into it, to sample my chosen birthday treat. Out fell some pink bits of flesh. They might have been sows’ eyelids. The ‘sausage’ contained nothing else. No obvious flavourings, herbs, breadcrumbs, onion. Just these pink flaps of flesh. I gingerly took a bite. OK, I might be able to manage this, I said. I took another – yes maybe. And another (in between chips) – and this time I got a gristley bit. It reminded me of the mushroom cream soup in Mexico, which was just cream and bits of mushroom, and a glutinous lump that nearly made me…..
I managed about a quarter of the ‘sausage’ before remembering that at lunchtime I had pocketed an unused paper napkin. Out it came, in went the chitterlings sausage and I passed it to Carolyn to put in her handbag. Well it was what I’d asked for so I could hardly send it back. I filled up with red wine – ‘I need to forget’.
After the meal we deposited it in a bin, one with reasonably clean rubbish and almost full – there being no dogs passing. Maybe some homeless person – of which there were more than last year, and many looking much more desperate then ever – found it and it made their day.
So you ask, “what are chitterlings?” – small intestines. That’s right, a sausage skin, filled with….. sausage skins. Culinary genius!
Moral – in France, stick to the vegetarian option – if you can find one.
On the way back, across from the Gare du Nord we had a spectacular goats cheese salad.
And I’ll maybe write something about the rest of the trip later.